Founded in 1874, Tacoma was an important destination for the transcontinental railroad system. The railway connection to the deepwater port on Puget Sound established the city as a major link in national and international commerce. The city has taken advantage of that decision to grow into one of the premier places to live in America.
Historic buildings in downtown Tacoma represent the wealth and vigor of the early days of industry in the Pacific Northwest. Nationally renowned architects created works in industrial and high styles, including Beaux Arts and Art Deco. Neighborhoods developed in a rich mix often featuring the Victorian and Craftsman styles that America recognizes as their own type of home. Commercial and industrial buildings have been adapted for new uses in the downtown area, and have won national respect for that work. Neighborhood coalitions have worked to preserve the character of entire streets and blocks.
Major restoration efforts and a growing revitalization of Tacoma's downtown area are rapidly changing the city's past reputation as an industrial rail and lumber town. The central business district began emerging in the mid-1980s with the restoration of the historic Pantages Theater, construction of the Tacoma Sheraton Hotel and The Financial Center, and renovation of Union Station.
Parks & Recreation
For recreation and natural beauty, Tacoma can't be beat. Mount Rainier National Park was established by Congress and signed into law by President McKinley in 1899. The 250,000-acre park, along with a section of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, dominates eastern Pierce County. The park contributes tremendously to the county's tourism and recreation sector, most of which is otherwise centered in the greater Tacoma area.
Attractions & Local Points of Interest
The University of Washington opened the first phase of its Tacoma Branch campus in 1997. Located across Pacific Avenue from the Washington State History Museum and Union Station, the downtown site cost $33 million initially and will expand to a 46-acre, $85-million campus.
Close by the downtown hub, the Tacoma Dome is a major sports, entertainment and events facility. The Tacoma Dome has regularly hosted headline entertainers from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen, events such as the annual Home & Garden Show, and many other exhibitions throughout the year. Near the dome is Freighthouse Square Public Market, a historic railroad warehouse now housing many original gift shops, off-beat boutiques, and ethnic restaurants. The latter range from Thai and Vietnamese to Mexican and American, plus fabulous cinnamon rolls and other goodies. Ethnic fests are held there each month to salute different cultures.
In the late 1980s, Union Station was put on the National Register of Historic Places and $57 million was spent on complete interior and exterior renovation. Today it enjoys new life as a Federal Courthouse and home of the largest single exhibit of sculptured glass art by internationally known native son Dale Chihuly. The Tacoma Art Museum arranged the Station's Chihuly display and features more of his work at its nearby downtown location, along with Northwest artists, impressionists, classics and special quarterly exhibits.
Near the Broadway Theater district is Antique Row, comprised of 14 shops offering 60,000 square feet of collectibles and vintage furniture. A vibrant Farmer's Market enlivens Broadway every Thursday.
The Port of Tacoma is the sixth largest container port in North America and among the top 25 container ports in the world. The port handles over 80% of all waterborne cargo shipped to Alaska from the lower 48 states.